Howl's Moving Castle, Howl/Sophie. Written for Yuletide 2007
The first time Howl watched Sophie sleep it was because he knew she had some kind of spell on her, but he couldn't quite see through it. Clearly the Witch of the Waste had done something vile to his unwanted housekeeper. And so, wanting to see her in an unguarded state, he crept to her niche, pulled back the curtain and looked.
Well! That was certainly a surprise. He'd figured she was probably younger, but he hadn't guessed quite THAT young. What a foolish girl to have annoyed the Witch of the Waste at such a tender age!
(Of course Howl completely ignored the fact he'd run afoul of the Witch not much older than that, But then Howl was prone to ignoring things he didn't want to acknowledge.)
The second time Howl watched Sophie sleep he was planning on doing something truly horrid to her while she slept; she'd rearranged his spells while he was out, causing him no end of trouble, and he wanted to pay her back. Maybe he'd stick her hand in warm water and see if she peed her bed! Maybe he'd transform into a beast and scare her awake! Maybe he'd dye her hair blue - that would show her, all right!
(Howl was a great believer in payback, but especially when his prey couldn't fight back.)
But in the end he only watched her for a while, how her chest rose and fell ever so slightly, how breath opened her pink lips as she exhaled, how her eyes fluttered as she dreamt. He put back the curtain and went up to his room.
The seventh time Howl watched Sophie sleep he was angry, and filled with despair. He dragged himself into the castle, filthy, singed, aching, and slowly, slowly returned to his human form. Calcifer was worried; he remarked on Howl's appearance, warning him about too great a use of magic. Howl ignored him. He wanted Sophie. He wanted her to be the one to chide him and warn him. He needed her to-
"She's sleeping," Calcifer said. "Don't wake her up. She works hard all day."
"And I don't?" Howl whined. "Too bad. If I want somebody awake, I'll wake them up. This is my castle, isn't it?"
"Shut up, Calcifer." Howl walked to the curtain, not bothering to soften his footsteps. He roughly shoved back the curtain, the weight of the war and the world on his shoulders. He opened his mouth to say "Sophie! How dare you be sleeping when I'm in this state!"
-but instead he stood there silently for a moment and slowly closed his mouth. No reason to wake her up now, when he was at his lowest ebb. If they argued, she'd probably win. No; better to wait until he felt more himself and she was at a disadvantage.
(Howl didn't mind a good argument as long as he won.)
The twelfth time Howl watched Sophie sleep he reached down and gently cupped her breast, taking care not to wake her with his touch. As he expected; her breast was firm and round, and just the right size for his hand. He toyed with the idea of reaching inside her nightgown, but a tsk-tsk from Calcifer made him withdraw his touch. There was an aching in his body, where his heart should've been - not to mention a twitching in his body a little lower.
For a moment he considered ravishing her.
"Howl..." warned Calcifer.
"Don't you dare!"
"All right, all right," Howl sighed and closed the curtain. "But I could if I wanted to."
"Sure, sure." Calcifer rolled his eyes and sulked.
(Howl was very good at empty promises.)
And then Howl went upstairs and shut the door, and what he did there Calcifer could only imagine.
The three hundred and twenty-seventh time Howl watched Sophie sleep he turned to her in their big iron bed and kissed her forehead gently, so as not to wake her. But Sophie's eyes opened anyway.
"Howl? What is it?"
"Nothing, Sophie. Go back to sleep. I was just...watching."
"Oh," Sophie said, smiling. "Like you used to do before?"
Howl startled. "Before? Whatever do you mean, Sophie?"
"Silly." She reached up and drew him down until they were nose to nose. "Back before I broke your spell. Do you think I didn't know?"
"I..." Howl found himself for once in his extraordinary life entirely lost for words. "You knew?"
"Sophie," Howl said crossly, "you are a pain. And you're very tricky."
"I know," Sophie said.
"Hmm. How do I know you didn't trick me into being with you?"
(Howl hated to be at a disadvantage, even though he didn't mind at all putting others in the same position.)
"Well," said Sophie, "I don't suppose you'll ever know. Not for certain." And then she pulled him into a kiss filled with magic and promises.